I’ve written tons on trying to figure out how to have holidays after child loss.
I don’t share my ideas because I’m an expert or because I’ve figured it out.
Holidays have been hit or miss ever since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven even though I’ve had six years (this will be seventh) to try to get them *right*.
But a mama’s heartfelt request in a bereaved parents group got me thinking.
She asked that folks refrain from telling her how BAD holidays after loss are and tell her how she could work toward making them manageable or even GOOD again.
I was trying to distill what I’ve learned in all these years into a (relatively) short comment to encourage her heart.
And what I came up with was that flexibility and grace were the keys that opened the door to holidays that at least approximated comfort and joy.
When Dominic ran ahead to Heaven my children were young adults finishing college and grad school, beginning careers, moving away and getting married. Things were bound to change even if we hadn’t lost him. But adding deep sorrow, grief and the trauma of sudden death made adjustments that much harder, depleted our emotional and psychological reserves and meant we were all giant walking nerves.
The first year we simply endured.
In the years since there has been one or more special circumstances to complicate working out new traditions. We’ve had two December graduations, a deployment and serious family illnesses among other things.
So I’m still not “in the swing” although I do manage to set up a small tree and enjoy finding gifts for the ones I love to tuck underneath.
The only thing that’s remained consistent is an ongoing need for flexibility and a desperate need to give and receive grace!
I try hard to have conversations about particulars as early as possible (usually September or October) with an honest understanding that things can and WILL change. One thing I’ve learned (the hard way!) is that putting off the inevitable calendar comparison and setting at least approximate dates only makes everything worse.
Trust me, being the one to make these phone calls and navigate the emotional waters is a task unto itself! I usually just set aside a day and plan on being exhausted by the end of it.
But it’s easier to have a single point of contact even when it means I’m also the single point of venting for those who are less than pleased with whatever compromise results.
I try to be the most flexible piece of our holiday puzzle even though I do have preferences and favorite foods and an image of what the holiday might look like. My surviving children have career commitments, work schedules and in laws to deal with so I want to free up space for them as much as possible.
If I’m honest it’s not easy.
My heart remains fragile and I spend more days than I’d like crying quietly where no one can see me. But that’s part of being a mama even if you haven’t sent a child ahead to Heaven.
So I ty to embrace the role, bend as much as possible and allow the grace of Jesus to fill my heart and flow through me to others.
I fall down often but keep getting up and trying again.
Holidays can be hard for lots of reasons. Child loss is just one of them.
So for the next few days I’m going to share some old posts that might help others face these next couple months with a little more confidence or at least some comfort knowing they aren’t alone in the struggle.